Peterson: Election won't affect water projects
Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson said Thursday he isn't going to let the outcome of November's midterm elections affect his efforts to secure funding in the next farm bill for Red River Valley water retention projects.
As the House Agriculture Committee chairman, Peterson has vowed to secure a provision in the 2012 farm bill for $500 million in mandatory funding over the next 10 years to improve water retention and conservation in the valley and to help curb problematic spring flooding.
But as Peterson and other federal and regional officials begin the early stages of crafting a funding proposal, the results from the midterm election in November might put a kink in their plan.
Several national political observers say Republicans are poised to win back control of the House this fall. If that happens, Peterson, a Democrat, would no longer oversee the House Agriculture Committee.
Peterson said earlier this year that his chairmanship allowed him to pin the fate of the next farm bill on whether the Red River Valley retention funding was included.
"We're going to do this, or there isn't going to be a farm bill," he said in June.
Peterson said Thursday that if Republicans gain control of the House, it wouldn't put the funding in jeopardy, but "a change in strategy" would be required to secure it.
North Dakota and Minnesota federal lawmakers would "have to go from blunt force to persuasion" to get the retention funding passed in a farm bill written under a Republican-controlled House, said North Dakota Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, who also sits on the House Agriculture Committee.
Both Pomeroy and Peterson are seeking re-election.
Despite the political prospects, Peterson reiterated his vow to secure a farm bill that includes the Red River Valley funding.
"They can't get a farm bill done unless I'm on board," Peterson said, "and I don't think I'm going to be on board unless this is in there. It's simple."
Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined Peterson and Pomeroy Thursday in Moorhead to begin the process of crafting a farm bill proposal with leaders from Minnesota's Red River Water Management Board and the North Dakota State Water Commission.
Officials aimed to begin pinpointing the types of activities that could be eligible for funding secured through the farm bill.
"The idea would be that over the next six months or so to get all this nailed down and everybody on board," Peterson said, "because at the end of the day, what's going to be really important is that we are unified, that we're together, that everybody's on the same page, and we're all working for the same thing so we can make this happen."
The funding for water retention and conservation projects would be separate from and in addition to the hundreds of millions needed to build a diversion around Fargo-Moorhead.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541